tv NOW With Alex Wagner MSNBC January 19, 2012 12:00pm-1:00pm EST
ladies and gentlemen, we have a horse race. it's thursday, january 19th, and this is "now." >> those bureaucrats at the department of commerce and energy and education that we're going to do away with. >> i've never quit a day in my life. i have never quit in the face of adversity, and i'm not just about to quit on the future of america. i am going to stay in this race and stay in this fight. >> i am suspending my campaign and endorsing newt gingrich. >> that was yesterday. joining me today from salon.com, steve kornacki, elizabeth speiers is the editor in chief, and representing brooke lynn, buzy ben smith. joining us from charleston, south carolina, the induetable john heilemann, national affairs
editor at "new york" magazine, and then msnbc political analyst, the pride of the south. john, thanks for being on the program. >> good afternoon, alex. >> what's that? >> i said, hello, alex. hello to you, john. we're talking rick perry, perrying on. what's his departure and endorsement of newt gingrich do to the race? i want to go to you first, john, since you're there where it's all happening? what is the inside dope on the timing of this? were there internal polls that just showed perry dead last? was he polling behind stephen colbert? what's the reason for the announcement today? >> alex, i think that -- well, first of all, i'm feeling a little bad, i don't have any chocolate bread pudding for you from south carolina, but there's a lot of news. hopefully that will compensate. what happened with rick perry, there's no question he came here in a bad situation, he tried to turn it around. nothing really moved for him here. his polling was very poor, but the polling i think that drove this decision and the timing of
it was the pressure he came under yesterday from a lot of prominent conservatives, that were explicitly coming out and asking him to drop out before the primary. people recognizing the fact that if no one beats mitt romney here, the race is basically over, and for the anti-romney forces, it became clear, there is only one candidate who had a chance to beat mitt romney. a lot of people called on perry to drop out and to not put himself in a position where he would be blamed as a spoiler and as the person who effectively helped nominate romney. and i think that pressure, it eventually became clear to him, he didn't see a path forward and didn't want to get that kind of blame. he dropped out today, where there's still a chance his votes could swing gingrich's way. >> steve, one of the things that struck me about perry's resignation speech was the fact that he kept saying again and again, i'm putting sort of party and country before. this is me, it's not about an individual, it's not about one man. clearly a bid to sort of salvage the republican brand or give them another hope, an
alternative to romney. the other thing he talked about was redemption, over and over again. which is interesting as he's endorsing newt gingrich, a man with a checkered past, i think, would be the most euphemistic way to put that. >> i'm sure the average south carolina voter would love to know that rick perry forgives newt gingrich for cheating on his first wife with his second wife and cheating on his second wife with his third wife. i'm not sure that will help anything. but it's interesting to me, we talk about the very limited support that rick perry had in south carolina, probably going to get 3, 4%. so i don't think the significance of this move is maybe the 3%, 4% goes to newt gingrich now. the significance is those santorum voters. because that's the strategy for newt gingrich here. to be the consensus, conservative alternative and to send a clear signal to the santorum voter in south carolina that, hey, only show in town now not named mitt romney is newt gingrich. so you've got, you know, this is dominating the news right now, maybe it helps send that signal.
>> that's interesting. let's look at some of the polling. nbc/marist has romney up by 10%, but after the debate, he was only leading by 5%. romney is at 34%. gingrich at 24%. paul at 16, santorum at 14. there's clearly momentum here. john, i want to bring you back in. how -- what is the word on the street regarding the romney camp and -- okay, john can't hear me. so i'm going to direct this to the other side of the room. in terms of mitt romney being scared right now, should he be quaking in his probably expensive loafers? >> i don't know if he's -- certainly, what they were doing for the first time was really reacting. previous to this, they were super pacs out there hitting newt gingrich, but romney was trying to keep his hands clean. they had a meeting with their two least supporters to drop a piano on newt's head.
that's what's starting to happen. romney's operating on the theory that once people are reminded of who newt really is, he can't be the nominee. which is a lot of republicans think. >> i agree. i'm not worried that romney's ultimately going to get the nomination. he's got enough money and organization to push that through. but i think it's fascinating how people are reacting to the debates this week, to the momentum that gingrich got coming off that, particularly on the food stamps issue, i think it really made romney look like the 1% that's out of the touch. his tax issues, the continuie i press about that. >> we'll definitely talk about the tax issue. elizabeth, when we talk about marianne gingrich, who's dropping bombs, talking about newt gingrich in an open marriage, two phrases that i did not think would be butting each other in conversation, newt gingrich and open marriage. let's listen to what she said in an upcoming abc news interview. >> you want me all to yourself. callista doesn't care what i do. >> what was he saying to you, do you think? >> he was asking to have an open
marriage and i refused. >> he wanted an open marriage? >> yeah, that i accept the fact that he has somebody else in his life. >> and you said? >> no. no. >> let's listen to newt gingrich responding to that earlier this morning on "today". >> i've been very open about my life. i've been very open about mistakes i have made. we entered this race, and we had to think this through for a year, because we knew we'd get beaten up, we knew we'd get lied about, we knew we'd get smeared, we knew we'd get nasty attack ads, and we decided the country was worth the pain. >> elizabeth, i ask you, i mean, i think personally speaking, is there a difference in the minds of americans between having affairs and getting divorced and getting remarried and having -- and the concept of an open marriage. is that just too freaky for americans? does this hurt him or is this, been there/done that? >> i think a lot of his baggage is going to come back up as the election goes on. even in perry's endorsement, you
saw the sort of element where he was pained to do it. he said, well, newt's not perfect. there are a lot of seemingly undermined statement as he was sort of making the speech. and i'm not sure that middle america is really ready for a president who's up for an open marriage. >> people are forgiving. this is a state, south carolina, where mark sanford had this incredible flameout, lied about where he said he was on the appalachia appalachia trail and flew down to have an affair. i think redemption is a big part of that evangelical culture. >> but i just think -- >> beating up newt over these things that happened years ago, a lot of people will say, people have complicated lives. >> john heilemann, i have word that you now have audio in your ear, which is great for our program. >> yes, i do. >> we're talking about the open marriage question. and i know gingrich, some of his surrogates on this have been his daughters. what's the feeling in the gingrich camp as far as how much the story has legs and whether
or not it's going to wound him going into saturday's primary? >> well, look, alex, your question earlier was a little bit too broad. at some point if gingrich becomes the republican nominee, we'll have to ask the question about how americans feel about the notion of an open marriage versus just adultery. but in south carolina where a guy like gingrich is counting on having to carry a large percentage of the evangelical vote to win on saturday, and where the polling has been his biggest problem has been with evangelical women, who have been more inclined towards rick santorum, and the feeling is that part of that is driven by newt gingrich's marital history. now this is a charge that marianne gingrich is making. it's not proven thing. and how beginning rip responds to it is important. we saw a little bit of that this morning. there's no doubt that rick perry's endorsement speech was aimed really squarely at addressing that issue. and it's the same kind of approach that gingrich used in iowa with evangelical voters. not to much very positive effect, as it turned out, but to sort of play on this redemption,
there is a redemption and forgiveness narrative in the evangelical community. that is going to have to be the place that he plays as he tries to respond. and he's going to do it in a kind of vague wave. he's going to say, i've made mistakes in my life, i've found god and people will have to accept that. buttic it's going to be a very close race here. and a few points either way could be decisive. and those evangelical women could hold the future of gingrich's candidacy in their hands and the future of the republican nomination in their hands on saturday. >> an interesting race to be sure, which we will be talking about more after the break. it has been a winding road to the final four, but this race is far from over. stay with us as we keep unpacking all the gop has to offer. more from our panel plus live remarks from president obama ahead on "now." [ sniffs ] i have a cold. [ sniffs ] i took dayquil
welcome back. we've been discussing rick perry's bombshell news that he is exiting the race, but not to be eclipsed, news out of iowa that rick santorum may have, in fact, won over there by a handful of votes, as little as 34, although those results are never waactually going to be certified. i wonder what you guys think this stuff -- we talk about mitt romney's very bad, no-good day. does this undermine his legitimacy at all, the fact that he may not have even won iowa. >> the question is what happens tomorrow night in south carolina. because i can see two different sort of narratives emerging. if romney goes out and wince tomorrow night, i don't think anybody's going to really care -- >> on saturday night. >> yeah, on saturday night. i don't think anybody's going to care about what the iowa result was or wasn't. but if gingrich catches him and pulls off a surprise and that's
the big story, then you can look at this and say, well, wait a minute, instead of mitt romney being the first republican ever to win iowa and new hampshire and complete the trifecta in south carolina, now we have mitt romney didn't win iowa, mitt romney got beat in south carolina, and mitt romney only won what is essentially his home state. that's a completely different narrative going into florida. i think it comes into play then. yes, it would be santorum winning iowa, but it would be a big help to gingrich if gingrich is able to win tomorrow. >> i agree. i think it's all about south carolina. i think the midwest is different, actually. it's more conservative, unemployment is lower. i'm not really worried about him winning there or not. but i think south carolina and particularly the squareoff with romney, the 1% versus -- or excuse me, with gingrich, with his populism. i think that's the narrative going forward. >> and i would say, there's this thing about romney losing and still claiming victory and saying it's a tie that i think plays to kind of these negative perceptions of romney, you know, heads i win, tails you lose, no matter what, romney's claiming victory. >> worth keeping in mind that rick santorum did tweet, thank you, iowa, for the win.
i encourage everyone to join our fight in south carolina. game on! john heilemann, is it, in fact, game on? does rick santorum get any boost from this perry exit? >> i don't know about that. he's been dropping, we've seen consistent polling over the last few days that's shown santorum weakening here. i think to speak to the previous question, alex, i think that it is obviously correct that what happens on saturday matters a lot. and steve kornacki is right. i mean, if newt gingrich does pull off a victory here, it will change the overall kind of meta-narrative for the campaign in a significant way and it will make florida an extraordinarily important state. newt gingrich could get a wave of financial contributions that will come in and make him competitive. remember, it was only about a month ago that newt gingrich was ahead of romney in florida by 25 or 30 points. . and with enough money, gingrich could go down to florida and give him a real fight. i think the interesting question, if you couple all of that, the changing macronarrative, again, if gingrich wince here on saturday, changing that macro narrative
and all of the unforced errors that romney has commit offered the course of the past week in terms of the economic story around here, the bain stuff, the tax returns, all that stuff, it starts to, i think if gingrich comes back and wince here today, and especially if gingrich can really battle romney in florida, there's going to be a hue and cry that's going to coming up among the republican establishment, which has always had a lot of doubts about romney for someone else to get in this race. because they're looking at him right now and they see a very badly damaged candidate heading into the general election with barack obama. if he loses here on saturday, there's going to be a lot of talk. i don't know about how realistic it is, but there's going to be a lot of talk among a lot of high-level republicans about can we really go forward with either newt gingrich or mitt romney as our nominee. you're going to start to hear that in a lot of chambers in washington, d.c.. >> we'll be talking a little bit about the tax question. the cayman islands are also close to florida, if i have my geography right. but when we talk about the economic populist message, it is mind boggling that the guy with the $500,000 revolving tiffany's
account who goes on vacations to the greek islands is somehow the representative of the great purltarian. >> i feel like that could happen at any point. >> we're holding out. >> i think it's very hard for a lot of middle americans to relate to romney. when he comes out and says, i have a 15% effective tax rate, that doesn't resonate with most people. it will be interesting to see how he overcomes that. >> this is somebody who says, i didn't make a lot of speaking fees when he made almost $400,000. >> and i think the income from those speaking fees alone might have taken him to the 1%, which is ironic. >> certainly in a lot of parts of the country. >> we'll be talking more about taxes, money, and romney's millions after the the break. the tax man cometh. we'll dig into that report that mitt romney parked money in the cayman islands and what it means for the gop presidential race. that's next on "now." this is an rc robotic claw.
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♪ got you in a stranglehold, baby ♪ there are reports that mitt romney has millions of dollars set up in the cayman islands, a notorious tax haven. we were talking earlier before the break about the tax issue for romney. and i think that there is, for me, i think that there is a difference anecdotally between talking about someone's tax rate and talking about the fact that they may have millions offshore. do you guys think that this is an arrow to wound him going forward? >> because it feels like cheating. it doesn't feel like -- i know, legally, and no one's accused of doing anything illegal, but paying the tax rate you can get away with stateside is one thing, but doing complicated things to dodge it feels a little different. >> to me the most interesting thing is who the messenger is on this issue for the republican party. it's no secret that whoever the
republicans nominate, the democratic's message will be, they are the protectors of the pampered 1%. and mitt romney's proposals are economically slightly more moderate than the others. you look at the capital gains tax rate, newt gingrich wants to eliminate it completely. romney's saying, i only want to do this -- i only want to target the middle class. the problem get sbas who the messenger is. you look at a guy like romney, look at offshore accounts, the $10,000 bet. you look at how he personifies that top 1% the democrats say the republicans want to protect, and i keep thinking, you're saying maybe john heilemann was talking about maybe a mystery candidate. i keep thinking of a guy like chris christie, who would run on the same platform that mitt romney would run on, but looks and sounds like a middle class jersey guy, who i think could sell that message a lot better than a guy like mitt romney could. >> john heilemann, as we talking about the mitt romney cayman islands kerfuffle, i don't even know what the right word is for it, but is he going to be -- there's a lot of pressure. we know that "the wall street journal," the "national review" are saying, it's time for to us
see your tax returns. is there any sense that might happen before south carolina, and is it an issue if he doesn't wm >> i don't think it's going to happen before success. i know this is a hard issue for you to comment on, because you keep all your money in numbered swiss bank accounts. >> i do, but i don't like talking about that on air for obvious reasons. >> i know. i know. look, the cayman thing, they're making the argument that it's all strictly legal and that it hasn't really affected the taxes he pays, et cetera, and it's probably true. but to most average voters, keeping money, having investments in offshore cayman accounts just sounds horrible. and it sounds horrible and it's part of this picture, right? if you go back, mitt romney has provided all of -- not just the facts, but a lot of very vivid video. you know, from corporations are people too to i fear having a pink slip to i like firing people. this is like a greatest hits reel for david axelrod and the guys in chicago in terms of painting him as simultaneously gordon gekko, you know, destroyer of jobs, vulture capitalist, wall street predator on one hand and richey rich on
the other hand. the guy from the monopoly board with the top hat and the monocle on the other. and everything that romney has done over the course of this last week has only further perpetrated that and given them a lot of fresh footage. i think it's a real problem going forward for him, and so much of it could have been avoided, especially this tax return thing, which if he had put out his tax returns last fall when a lot of people weren't paying as much attention and was tabable to explain themd start develop well-honed answers to these questions, he'd be in so much better shape today. but again another unforced error that's really hurt him. >> and you've got to wonder why they didn't see this coming. for a campaign that's been so well run and looked forward to every eventuality, it's mitt romney's father who decades ago began the process of releasing one's tax returns. >> i think it underscores a more fundamental issue. i think romney view himself as someone who's an economic fixer and has this great competency. i think that this shows, he
really doesn't have a clue as to what the core economic problem in this country is right now, which is the shrinking middle. that's something that a private equity guy is not going to fix. and i think his sort of being so out of touch with the tax issue really reflects that. >> i don't know how you don't think, you know, i have $20 million in i.r.a.s so i don't have to pay taxes on, and however many millions in the cayman islands is not an issue you'll have to deal. >> wasn't it a calculation that this was something that was going to come up in the general election, this was not going to be a primary issue. it wasn't going to be newt gingrich and rick perry saying that mitt romney's the vulture capitalist. i think the assumption they were operating under was, we can wait until april, we can wait until maile once we get this nomination wrapped up and in this dead period between now and the convention, we can get all that stuff out. >> and he's already been kicking this particular can down the road for 18 years. this was an issue in 1994. he called on kennedy to release his taxes, and refused to unless kennedy would also release them.
their experience has been, if you just sort of say hazy things about, we'll do it next april, people will kind of lose interest. and i think this is a matter of it becoming a presidential stage they're not quite used to. >> and i think having "the wall street journal" and the "national review" saying, it's time for you to do it, it lends a sense of urgency to this. it's worth noting that as outraged as i am about the cayman islands offshore bank accounts, we just have reports, it is not fact yet, we do not know. and hopefully we'll no at some point if mitt romney ever chooses to release his tax returns. thank you to john heilemann for joining us from south carolina, the pride of the south. and thanks gen to rana forooha. first we'll talk about the president's keystone crackdown. will a rejection of the pipeline create an oil slick for the administration. that is all next on "now." my name is brad anderson
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you're looking live at disney world's main street, usa, where president obama is expected to speak shortly about a plan to boost the nation's tourism industry. the president's focus on jobs comes as republicans hammer him for rejecting the keystone pipeline, a plan they said would have created thousands of new positions. joining the table now is queen bee of thegrio.com, joy-ann reid, and the indubitable, the unmatchable mike viqueira, who did not make the trip down to the happiest place on earth. >> reporter: no. >> but he joins us now from the white house. mike, there's so many reasons to go to disney world. >> reporter: yes. >> but i ask you, why did the president choose main street, usa, and disney world for this moment to shine a light on the tourism industry? >> reporter: well, alex, and a biptty bobtty -- i messed up the
line! >> try it again, one more time. >> reporter: bibtty bobtty to you. this is part of the we can't wait rubric. the president making a point saying, look, if congress isn't going to work with me, i'm going to do some things, whatever i can do, to try to promote job growth in this country. today, the focus on tourism. what he is doing is he is expediting an executive order that would expedite the process by which citizens of china and brazil, obviously two emerging economies, could come to the united states and spend their money here at places like disney world. the president appearing before cinderella's castle on main street, usa, today in orlando, florida. he's doing a couple of other things. he's expanding a visa waiver program for citizens of eligible countries as well. but it's really not lost on anyone that the florida primary is january 31st.
and as republicans air ads in that market attacking president obama, the president perhaps looking ahead to november, coming down there for obviously some very positive publicity. alex. >> the jobs question is an interesting one. and i want to open this up to the panel a little bit. because president obama's now under fire from a lot of republicans, specifically speaker john boehner, leading the charge on this, for rejecting the keystone oil pipeline. estimates on how many jobs that would create vary wildly from 50 to 10,000, 20,000, 40,000. do you think the president's message that he is focused on the economy, he wants to create jobs, rises above the din of the keystone noise in 2012? >> i would say overall, it probably will. i don't think this is going to be the defining issue of the campaign, but i don't think on this issue, it does. i think this is one where he's trying to have it both ways a little bit, where, you know, he used this provision that the republicans put into that payroll tax deal at the end of last year that forced him to
make a decision, you know, some time earlier this year. he sort of used that as a way to say, well, okay, i'm not going to offend the environmentalists in my base right now. i'm going to have my administration reject this now, but i'm not going to say i'm completely against it. i'm going to try to leave it open and blame the republicans for rushing the process. that's too much. >> that's a really interesting point, though. because he is at once taking a stand for the environmental movement, but is not actually planting a flag in this. and we talk about comprehensive energy reform in the green movement, and i think it's a the testament to -- it's a political calculation on the part of the white house, that they're not going to try to really play to that base, even as they reject something like keystone. >> it was an offensive move, to try to avoid offending these people while vetoing something, there's beginning to be a real cost that. i don't think that his complicated arguments about legislative timing -- >> and permitting. >> but they're still leaving a door open for them to reply,
which could be a factor on down the road. >> and why would he take on having -- it would have been a much louder, angrier, green movement than labor is going to be about him rejecting it for now. i think that they made a calculation that they'd want to avoid the noise and sort of keep the base happy. i mean, re-election is about the base, right? >> mike, i want to bring you back in here. we know that romney released a statement saying president obama's decision to reject the keystone xl crude oil pipeline is as shocking as it is revealing. it shows a president who once again has put politics ahead of sound policy. the white house had a response to that. this looks like it's going to become a version of political football in the coming weeks and months. >> reporter: right. and it plays right into the narrative of the republican candidates like mitt romney. look, it's not a good issue for the president. and that suspicious minds might say is the reason why they decided upon further review, as they say on sundays this time of year, and that would effectively kick it into next year beyond the election. they thought they had the solution. republicans sort of called their
bluff on that and forced his hand to make a decision by february 21st. obviously, the white house just wanted to take that off the table and did it a full month early, did what they said they'd always do, and said there wasn't enough time to do that environmental review. one interesting side note on this is republicans frequently cite the republican governor of nebraska saying he's for it, the nebraska legislature is for it, the white house says, no, they're not. but what the republican governor in nebraska is simply saying, we haven't decided, we haven't done our environmental review, we would like to have it, but what transcanada should do, the company constructing this $7 billion project is start on either end, and by the time we get to nebraska, we will have decided which way we want them to construct that pipeline. as the speaker might say, speaker boehner himself might say, there's a lot of ifs and buts and candy and nuts in that statement. transcanada may not want to
construct that pipeline on what some bureaucrat in nebraska might decide to do. there are a lot of ins and outs in this. but the issue is not good for the president, because it cores his constituencies cleanly in two, environmentalist on one side and organized labor on the other who wanted that pipeline to be constructed. >> i love when you can bring up john boehner holiday lines, ifs buts and candy and nuts. mike, when we talk about the climate in washington, there's a lot of dismay at the partisanship. certainly this, reswrekting keystone doesn't win president obama any favors from the republicans in the house, and we do know that everyone's going to have to sort of play nice on this payroll tax cut extension. republicans have said they may cut out some of the more incendiary or controversial provisions, including those relating to unemployment insurance. do you think the fact that obama has done this hurts house democrats as they sort of have to work with house republicans on payroll tax cut extensions? >> i think that bell got wrung a long time ago, alex.
they're just simply not getting along, and it's been that way for quite some time pip started covering capitol hill in 1997, and i remember being shocked at the animosity and svitriol, and it's only gotten worse since then. especially in the house of representatives. there's no love lost. i don't think you can poison the waters anymore than they've been poisoned at this point. as far as extending those payroll tax cuts, republicans are very sore they got backed into a corner, and not simply by the republican, but by the republican leader, the leader of their own party in the united states senate, mitch mcconnell, if you can recall way back last month when he cut that deal on the weekend and left sort of house republicans flat footed and everybody left town, and they were essentially left with no other choice but to agree to that two-month extension. i think that you can expect house republicans to find a way to press the issues where they think they can get political traction and try to attach them on to the bill to extend those payroll tax cuts for the rest of the year, just as they did by attaching that keystone pipeline language on to the bill this time. remember, they essentially made
lemons out of lemonade, to turn the phrase on its head. they had a win there. they were forcing the president to accept that language that he explicitly said he would reject on the keystone pipeline, attaching it to the extension of the tax cut. i don't see any reason why they wouldn't try to do something like that again next month when it comes to time for a full-year extension, alex. >> mike, i want to go back to disneyland for a second, because i always want to go back to disneyland. >> disney world. >> disney world, to be technical. >> a big difference. you mentioned this was a bid to get more brazilian and chinese tourists. on something like average, brazilian tourists spend $4,900 on every trip to the u.s. and chinese tourists spend more than like $6,000. but why disney world? are there a lot of brazilian and chinese tourists there? you mentioned florida? just because he's going to be in florida? >> reporter: obviously, florida's got a lot to do with it. the upcoming republican primary. we don't need to be reminded of
the essential nature, the key nature that florida plays -- the key role that florida plays in the presidential election. the president going to nevada next week in his post-state of the union whirlwind tour of other places in the country including arizona and michigan. and nevada happens to be the state where the primary is held after florida, directly after florida. so, you know, the white house will not openly admit that there's any kind of political calculation here, but i think you know, anybody with any bit of common sense can put the pieces together of that puzzle and figure out the president does have an eye on the political calendar as he makes these trips around the country. disney world itself, i mean, there's 64,000 people who simply work there. cast members, as they like to call them down at disney world. here's another startling statistic, 2.7% of the gdp in this country is related to tourism, alex. >> interesting. mike, there's actually 64,000 people that work on this television show. you know, this kind of magic doesn't make itself. >> reporter: leave it all up
there on the screen, alex. >> joy, you've spent some time in florida. it's an interesting state. it's worth mentioning that the president is going to our fair city of new york to raise some dollars after he gives his main street message. is the american public paying attention? first of all, is that hypocritical, and is the american public paying attention to the president's movements at this point? >> i think he's got to fund-raiser. and the stuff he's doing in new york is interesting. he has a fund-raiser at spike lee's house, and then he's got this piece at the apollo later on this evening. but i think the florida thing is actually pretty potent. because florida is the state where the governor which is probably one of the most unpopular governors in the country, in part because he rejected federal money for high-speed rail. so when you go down there and do a federal initiative to create jobs, that actually resonates in florida, where republicans are mad at the governor for rejecting these initiatives that are sort of public/private partnerships to create jobs. and where that whole idea of job creation coming from the federal government is actually kind of resident. >> well, we are going live now
to the president who will be making comments about the tourism industry live from disney world. >> hello, everybody! i am glad to be at disney world! t the magic kingdom. this is outstanding. well, let me begin by thanking ruben for that extraordinary introduction, and he was too bashful, maybe he's not supposed to do this, i will do it. his restaurant's called zaza! new cuban diners. so everybody check it out. and i told him, he was on the way out, he was wondering, i don't know, i don't do this a lot. he's a natural. we're going to have to run him for something. but thank you so much for taking
the time. it is great to be here. it is rare that i get to do something that sasha and malia envy me for. that doesn't happen very often. maybe for once they'll actually ask me at dinner how my day went. and i confess, i am excited to see mickey. it's always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me. i -- i want to acknowledge the presence of one of florida's outstanding mayors, the mayor of orlando, buddy dyer is in the house. we've got two outstanding members of my cabinet, interior
secretary ken salazar and commerce secretary, john bryson. because they're focused on what brings us here today. and that's creating jobs and boosting tourism. now, you just heard what a huge difference tourism makes for small businesses like ruben's. every year tens of millions of tourists all over the world come to visit america. makes sense. we've got the greatest can country on earth, people want to come. as folks in orlando know, that's good for our economy. it means people are renting cars and they're staying in hotels and they're eating at restaurants and they're checking out the sites. it means people are doing business here in the united states.
in 2010, nearly 60 million international visitors helped the tourism industry generate over $134 billion. tourism is the number one service that we export. number one. and that means jobs. more money spent by more tourists means more businesses can hire more workers. it's a pretty simple formula. and that's why we're all here today. to tell the world that america is open for business. we want to welcome you. and to take concrete steps to boost america's tourism industry so that we can keep growing our economy and creating more jobs, here in florida and all across the country. here's the good news. we've got the best product to sell. i mean, look at where we are.
we've got the most entertaining destinations in the world. this is the land of extraordinary natural wonders, from the rocky mountains to the grand canyon, from yellowstone to yosemite. this is the land where we do big thing thin things and so have incredible landmarks like the hoover dam and the gateway arch. this is the land of iconic cities and all their sites from independence hall in philadelphia to nathaniel hall in boston, from the space needle in seattle to the skyline of my hometown in chicago. it's a nice skyline for those of you who have never been there. all right. a couple chicagoans back this. i'm here today because i want more tourists here tomorrow. i want america to be the top tourist destination in the
world. the top tourist destination in the world. and this is something we've been focused on for some time. two years ago, i signed a bill into law called the travel promotion act. it had broad support of both democrats and republicans. and as you know, that doesn't always happen and it set up a new nonprofit organization called brand usa. it's job is to pitch america as a travel destination for the rest of the world to come to visit. you guys see advertising for other countries, other destinations here in the united states, right? well, we've got to do the same thing so when people are thinking about where they want to travel, where they want to spend their vacation, we want them to come here. and so that's already in place. but we've got to do more. so today i directed my administration to send me a new national tourism strategy
focused on creating jobs. and some of america's most successful business leaders, some who are here today, have signed up to help. we're going to see how we can make it easier for foreign tourists to find basic information about visiting america and we're going to see how we can attract more tourists to our national parks. we want people visiting not just epcot center, but the everglades too. the more folks who visit america, the more americans we get back to work. it's that simple. now, just as we do a better job of marketing our tourist destinations, we've also got to make it easier for tourists to make the visit. there's a good reason why it's not easy for anybody to get a visa to come to america. obviously, our national security is a top priority. we will always protect our borders and our shores and our
tourist destinations from people who want to do us harm. and unfortunately, such people exist. and that's not going to change. but we also want to get more international tourists coming to america. and there's no reason why we can't do both. we can make sure we're doing a good job keeping america secure, while at the same time maintaining the openness that's always been the hallmark of america and making sure we're welcoming travelers from all around the world. so one step we're taking is the expansion of something called the global entry program. this is a program that protects our borders makes life easier for frequent travelers to and from the united states. now. getting into the program requires an extensive background check, but once you're in, once you've proven yourself to be a solid individual who's coming here for business or recreation purposes, instead of going through long lines at
immigration, we can scan your passport, your fingerprints, and you're on your way. it's a great example of how we're using new technology to maintain national security and boost tourism at the same time. and we're now going to make it available to almost all international travelers coming to the united states. if they're willing to submit themselves to the background checks necessary, we can make sure that we're facilitating their easy travel into the united states. there are some additional steps, though, that we can take. right now, there are 36 countries around the world whose citizens can visit america without getting a tourist visa. after they go online, they get pre-cleared by homeland security and there's only one thing they have to do, and that's book a flight. and that's a great boost for tourism. over 60% of our visitors don't require a visa. and in most cases, that's
because of this program. today i'm directing my administration to see if we can add more countries to it. we want more folks to have an easier time coming to the united states. and let's also realize that in the years ahead, more and more tourists are going to come from countries not currently in this program. countries with rapidly growing economies, huge populations, and emerging middle classes. countries like china and india, and especially important for here in florida, with brazil. a huge population that loves to come to florida. but we make it too hard for them. more and more of their people can now afford to visit america, who couldn't come before, and in fact, over the next four years, the tourists traveling from those countries we expect to
more than double. but we want them coming right here. we want them spending money here in orlando, in florida, in the united states of america, which will boost our businesses and our economy. so today i'm directing the state department to accelerate our ability to process visas by 40% in china and in brazil this year. we're not talking about five years from now or ten years from now. this year. we've already made incredible progress in this area. we've better-staffed our embassies and our consulates, we've streamlined services with better technology, waiting times for a visa are down. but applications keep on going up. they are skyrocketing. people want to come here. and china and brazil are the two countries which have some of the biggest backlogs. and these are two of the countries with some of the fastest growing middle classes that want to visit and have
disposable income, money that they want to spend at our marks and our monuments and at businesses like ruben's. so that's what this is all about. telling the world that america is open for business. making it as safe and as simple as possible to visit. helping our businesses all across the country grow and create jobs. helping those businesses compete and win. ultimately, that's how we're going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility's rewarded, and where anybody can make it if they try. that's what america's all about. that's part of the reason why people want to come here. because they know our history. they know what the american dream's been all about. and a place like disneyland represents that quintessentially
american spirit. this image is something that's recognized all around the world and this weather is something that people appreciate all around the world, including the northern parts of this country. so we want everybody to come, all who are watching, disney world and florida are open for business, but we want people all around the world to know the same. and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we're continuing to boost tourism for decades to come. thank you very much, everybody. god bless you, god bless the united states of america. ♪ >> that was president obama speaking about reforming tourist visas, specifically for some folks, including the brazilians and the chinese, who are -- give a lot to the american economy. tourism giving a big boost in the billions to the american
economy. live in front of cinderella's castle in disney world. we have mike viqueira, who is not, unfortunately, going to be riding the pirates of the caribbean ride later this afternoon, but is life with us at the white house. mike, we heard that that audience was not filled with folks in goofy sun hats, but actually men in suits and glasses, which leads me to think that president obama had a specific audience in mind, which is to say, business leaders. >> certainly. that is the theme he's trying to strike. you remember the obama administration around the time that bill daley came here to be chief of staff, the soon to be departed bill daley, of course, and the idea was to mend fences with the business community. didn't work out so well as it turns out, and bill daley's on his way out, but that doesn't mean that the president has given up hope of trying to build bridges with the business community. and today you saw him, or you heard him, talk about the need to expand tourism, to expedite, to do what he can through executive order, to expedite and expand the number of tourists
from those emerging economies like china, india, and brazil to spend here, come here end and some of that newly flush with cash money at places like disney world and elsewhere around the country, alex. >> we noted that disney's ceo bob iger was in the audience and ben smith from buzz feed so wisely acknowledged that the white house may have some ground to make up with some entertainment companies after the sopa debacle, shall we say, that happened in the last 24 hours. but, mike, thank you for the intel, as always. and a big thank you to steve, elizabeth, joy-ann and ben, always great to have you guys on the program. that's all for now. and remember that unconventional endorsement that herman cain said on our show was coming, remember that? the day is here. the former presidential candidate and pizza mogul will be here tomorrow at noon eastern just before his highly anticipated press conference with stephen colbert.
"andrea mitchell reports" is next. hello, andrea. >> hi, alex. thanks so much. and coming up, the impact of rick perry's departure from the race and a look back at his wild ride in the contest. iowa republican chairman matt strawn is here, where he has just declared rick santorum the winner in iowa. that's still being disputed. and "time's" richard stengel on obama's world. all that right here on "andrea mitchell reports" only on msnbc. time out. sweet. [ female announcer ] with charmin ultra soft, you can get that cushiony feeling you love while still using less. charmin ultra soft is designed with extra cushions that are soft and more absorbent and you can use four times less versus the leading value brand. ♪ ah. [ female announcer ] we all go. why not enjoy the go with charmin ultra soft.
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